Barrio Lounge

896 Queen St. E.
416-572-0600

Barrio is a laid back lounge and bar where patrons can have a martini, a glass of wine, or even dine on a tapas-style menu of global delights. For those who do not know what”tapas style”-tapas is spanish for “snack-items”. This means that dishes are snack-size portions so you can try many things at once. The problem lies that these dishes are the prices of mains ($8-$10) when they should be $5-$6.

I looked at the one page paper menu (that changes every 3 months) and I only found three vegetarian items. Since mains are served tapas-style, you basically have to order 2-3 tapas just to be full. Rip-off central. I could understand ordering tapas-style if they were normally priced but Barrio has some nerve to charge those prices for tiny portions. I think it’s because the Queen East/ South Riverdale neighbourhood is becoming more and more chi chi poo poo like Queen West and more trendy, upscale restaurants are popping and morons like me are willing to try it and pay retarded prices. Was I ripped off? Decor is really nice. With pale green walls, calm jazzy, pop music in the background, and large photographs mounted on chunky canvasses, this place looks like a hip and modern bistro that would cater to an artsy crowd, probably journalists and writers, and other Queen east hipsters. Tables are close together and the actual restaurant is quite small. Many of the tables are lined up against a row bench that sits against the wall. Pillows and fluffy seat cushions add warmth to the modern design of this “Verveine-style” restaurant.

For my meal, I ordered a salad of roasted beets (red and pink), with arugula, sunflower seeds, in a very light viniagrette with creme fraiche on top ($8). I told them to hold the creme fraiche. Presentation is artistic, funky, and cool. For my main, i ordered the quesadilas with Alex Farms goat cheese (locally produced cheese store), grilled asparagus, and other funky little vegetables ($10). Both dishes were wonderful in terms of flavours, textures, aromas, and taste, but portion size sucked big time. My friend ordered braised chicken with green lentils ($10). It was served in a small cereal bowl. Quite laughable to say the least. He also ordered the same salad but he had the creme fraiche. I think creme fraiche is like whipped cream but it’s not sweet. Sound gross. Some vegetarian items to note : artichoke hearts in a garlic mayo, safron rice croquettes (rice cakes) in an eggplant caviar, and a selection of breads with Fred’s dips. Other items worth noting include popcorn shrimp with cocktail sauce and creamy dill dip, pork ribs with potato salad ($10), smoked trout with vinegary tapenade ($12), seared scallops with leeks ($12), and grilled strip loin frites ($12).

It is easy to order 4-5 dishes, thus making the dining experience quite expensive. Sunday’s “prix fixe” menu with 3 choices -one complete table d’hote for $19, and two table d’hote options for $23. Sunday “prix fixe” change weekly depending on what is in the market that day. Thank goodness for Sunday dinner where you can a real meal for a normal price. Although staff were very helpful and friendly, service was quite slow, portion size was pathetic and my diet coke was $1.75 and was filled with ice.  Accepts all cards. Open quite late

Verveine [review by Mark Aaron] closed 2006/07

1097 Queen St. E.,

416-405-9906.

Hours: Monday to Saturday at 6:00 p.m. to 10 p.m. for Dinner. Brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Verveine is now closed , as of summer 2008, it is now known as FARE.

Located in Leslieville on Queen east 2 blocks east of Pape, almost hidden in between many retro cheesy furniture stores and squeezed in between some mom and pop convenience stores and near a Smoked Salmon specialty store, Verveine does not stand out as being a restaurant that is “in your face”. We decided to go there for brunch because we have heard so many good things about this place. Inside the place looks very chi chi poo poo and we knew it was a French bistro/restaurant, but we wanted to try out their brunch.

Wendy and I arrived at 12:45pm. When we entered the restaurant, we were frustrated because 1) we were late and Joel and Walter were waiting for us, and 2) the place was jam packed with people. Verveine only accepts reservations for dinner, not brunch, unless you are more than 8 people. Even so, they may not accept brunch reservations. I was hungry and I had to run 30 kilometres that day so I had to make sure that I ate early enough. Joel and Walter were already sitting on the lovely fluffy mint green Victorian couch right by the entrance of the restaurant. There were many tables in the front and about 4 nice booths and 4 tables at the back of the restaurant. I hoped we would get a booth since they’re more comfortable.

Restaurant tables are spaced apart appropriately, except in the middle where the three small “2 person” tables are slightly squashed. Verveine seems to be a place divided into 3 zones: 5 tables in the front zone of the restaurant, 1 large booth right at the entrance zone (6 people), 3 “2 person” tables in the middle zone, 4 booths at the back of the restaurant with 4 tables at the back adjacent to the bar. When we were seated, we lucked out by being able to sit at a booth at the back of the restaurant.

I ordered the fruity flapjacks with Chantilly cream (vanilla whipped cream) and maple syrup. Pancakes (3) were thick and not too heavy or greasy. I was definitely full and the price was a little high ($9) but well worth it. Service was prompt and exceptional. Staff are more than friendly and knowledgeable and attentive. Wendy had the same item but she added a big thick sausage ($3). She commented that it is great to add extra to your meal. Joel and Walter both ordered the croissant with 2 poached eggs, creamed spinach, and hollandaise sauce. The dish came with salad or herbed home fries. Joel chose a side order of green salad and Walter chose a side order of homemade spicy potatoes (they ended up sharing the salad and herbed home fries). In addition, Joel ordered a side order of smoke salmon for an additional $3.

Popular brunch items include truffled scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on baby spinach with a buttermilk biscuit – $11, a basket of baked goods with fruit preserves – $4.95, “The Big A”- a choice of 2 meats (steak, sausage, peameal bacon), 3 eggs, saut�ed onions and peppers, and green salad – $15, “Toad in the Hole”- two eggs in hollowed out corn break with mild salsa and guacamole- $9, omelette of the moment with green salad and bagel – $9 (egg white omelettes- $10), a decadent French Toast dish (French Toast with caramelized bananas and chocolate with peanut butter whipped cream- $9, fresh fruit compote with oat cakes and honey yogourt- $7.50, Green Plate Special � Canadian AAA steak with scrambled or poached eggs, herbed home fries, a buttermilk biscuit, tomato pepper relish and natural juice -$12, poached eggs on croissant with hollandaise sauce, salad or herbed home fries -Blackstone with pancetta and tomato -$10.50, or Florentine with saut�ed spinach – $9.50, the brunch burrito with sausage, peppers, cheese, scrambled eggs, with mixed bean salad, sour cream, and spicy sauce- $10, a “samwich”- grilled chicken breast, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, Chipotle mayonnaise, on a Panini roll with herbed home fries and salad – $9.50, crab cakes with wilted spinach, herbed home fries and caper mayonnaise – $11. You can add any items to any of the meals like Farmer’s sausage – $3, herbed home fries – $1.50, tomatoes, $1.50, and cornbread – $2, grilled peameal bacon – $2.50, buttermilk biscuits – $1.50, or bagel/croissant – $1.25

Dinner appetizers are creative and fuse North American dishes inspired with flavours from India. Some dishes include a Romaine salad (Romaine lettuce with creamy roasted garlic dressing, pine nuts, and asiago tuile – $8), a home-made Samosa with pear, pea, and smoked duck, in a honey-mustard dipping sauce- $12, a Thai wrap- a folded chive crepe with glass noodle salad with a sweet and sour dipping sauce- $8, Italian Chef Salad- $9, Hummus and Feta Dumplings in a Gazpacho Dipping Sauce – $10, Crab and Corn “Panna Cotta” with Foccacia and a small green salad – $12, an asparagus and cherry tomato salad with parmesan and sherry dressing- $9, and Pappadum-crusted Tiger Shrimp with lemon raita and mango chutney- $13 Some dinner items include Duck Breast with basmati rice, rapini, in a mahogany glaze – $22, Baked Tilapia Filet with beet risotto, wilted spinach, in an herbed dressing- $18, a three-cheese baked macaroni with broccoli, cauliflower, and peppers – $15, roasted chicken breast with crab claws, with asparagus, in a pommery b�arnaise sauce – $21, rabbit in a red wine sauce with mushrooms, herbs, and pearl onions, and roasted vegetables- $19, vegetarian polenta lasagne in a mushroom and b�chamel sauce – $16, pan-seared halibut with green beans, cherry tomatoes, and caper butter sauce- $20, and a 10 ounce serving of grilled ribeye with roasted vegetable, spinach, and radish salad with corn relish- $25. Although the prices for entrees are not cheap, they are not a rip-off from hell like at Cafe Sassafraz.

Verveine’s decor is sleek, simplistic, and minimalism is the key to its design. Wall and fabric covering are pale green with a minimalist design of no art of knickknacks. Imagine Pottery Barn without the fluff or curves. There are some nice fabric wall hangings that add some warmth to the place and there are 2 large mirrors that give the impression of depth and space since the restaurant is not that big. I do think that the simple design adds a clean, sleek, polished look to the place, but, unlike Hello Toast, Verveine is not charming and does not have “character”. I do like the calm, non-clutter of the pale green walls and pale green fabric on the chairs and white linen tablecloths. All I thought was “clean and crisp in design.” There is a lovely Victorian couch right at the entrance of the restaurant for patrons to sit while they wait for their table or booth. While waiting, I never sat on the couch but Joel, Walter, and Wendy commented that the lumpy couch should be replaced, seeing that they know they have a lumpy couch and often people will have to wait for a table for brunch.

Verveine’s cosy and friendly ambiance does have a touch of pretentiousness but it’s no over the top like other brunch places. Our experience was made even more enjoyable by the calm background soundtrack from the movies “Amelie” and “The Piano”. During the latter part of our meal, we heard Norah Jones so Verveine knows how to set a mood. The look and feel of this place is definitely “cool, chic, and laid back.” Portion sizes are decent and prices are a little high, but quality and service and flexibility in terms of veggie options are impressive. Wendy, Joel, and Walter especially liked how at the bottom of the menu, you have the option to add things to your meal for a slight price increase. Egg white omelettes are only $1 extra.

Accepts every card. Warm, friendly, and attentive service. Accepts dinner reservations but not brunch reservations. Brunch can be very busy. Expect a 15-20 minute wait.

Kubo Radio [brunch]

894 Queen St E
416-406-KUBO (5826)

web site: www.kubo.com

Set in Leslieville at Queen and Logan, this hip and trendy Pan Asian eatery certainly did not
appear to be serving brunch. It looked too much like a bar. However, when Aaron asked me to brunch last week, he told me “let’s go to Kubo Radio”. I checked out the web site and i remembered from my last visit that they also serve brunch.

It also helps that there is graffiti on the glass windows advertising their brunch. Luckily, the messy writing on the glass windows are done with washable marker. I think the advertise their dinner and brunch and the writings change daily.

As indicated above, Kubo Radio serves Thai dishes as well as other Pan Asian meals for the urban and funky modern hipster in Leslieville. I did not know what to expect to be served so it was an adventure. I did notice that Kubo Radio does serve traditional favourites like eggs, wraps, sandwiches, cereal, dim sum, and a variety of exotic juices and herbal teas.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a super friendly and laid back waitress. We were served shot glasses of mango juice (YUMM) and free appetizers of little “smurf size” blueberry muffins with a raspberry confit. I found those dishes to be quite cute and creative. I enjoyed my dining experience last time, but I was already enjoying my brunch experience as well.

I also noticed a yummy dish which comprised thick French cut toast with chocolate spread and bananas. They also serve a variety of veggie and non-veggie wraps and, like any brunch place, they serve organic granola with smashed fruit, mint, and yogourt. Trying to be on the somewhat creative side, i opted for the huge portion of steel cut oatmeal ($6.95) with raisins, grated ginger, brown sugar, and slivered blanched almonds. What a hearty plate. After running 32 km that morning, i was starving and that dish was perfect. Aaron ordered the Eggs Foreign-Tee- poached eggs on an English muffin w/spinach/ham/kubodaise ($9.95). He thought that it was OK but missing some spice. They offered some spicy sauce but he regretfully did not take it.

Decor and design is ultra modern and slick. Restaurant has clean lines and is minimal in design. Only accepts cash and VISA but no Interac. Dim Sum is not veggie friendly and there are only 3 veggie dishes but the oatmeal rocked. I understand that Kubo Radio also identifies itself as a pub but i must admit the whole ambiance is really stained with the 2 cheesy TV screens above the tables.

Kubo Radio

Kubo
894 Queen St E
416-406-KUBO (5826)

web site: www.kubo.com
Kubo has existed in a few different locations since inception in 1999, and have recently settled in at Queen & Logan. This place is extremely hip and cool, would not be out of place along the College Street West strip of Little Italy.

Kubo has an ultra-modern minimalist environment, clean lines, Asian inspired. The tables are fairly small, so it is good for intimate or solo dining, but I went with a crowd of 18 people, which they accommodated by bringing many tables close together. If only ordering had been that easy.

As the concept of the place is Asian-inspired, they have over 11 Asian beers to choose from, sake martinis, and of course the food is all Asian as well.

I was the first to arrive. It’s a little daunting to sit alone at a table of 18, and though most of the waiters greeted me, not one of them brought me water, or asked me what I’d like to drink. Finally, when others arrive to join me, they begin to take drink orders. I ordered a Thai beer called Singha, based on my waiter’s recommendation. It was a very good choice, crisp & light tasting. I do wish I had been offered a drink menu, because then I would have known about the sake martinis that I only found out about after my beer arrived. I thought it best not to mix.

There was much drama with the process of ordering. I can completely understand that it would be frustrating & difficult to manage a table of our size, but I don’t think you should let the customers see your frustrations. They prefer to do “family style” meals for groups over 8, where you would get something like 2 types of appetizers & two types of mains on large platters for sharing, and those meals start at $25. The drama begins because 5 from our group do not want to partake in the communal meal, preferring to select whatever they want, as is their right. This did not sit well with our waiter, you could see the agitation grow, and after consultation with management, we were told to all order a la carte. I’m sure this didn’t please Kubo, however, shouldn’t the customer always be right?

I ordered the Kubo Vegetable Salad, $6.95 which was a generous portion of shredded carrots, cabbage, sprouts and stuff in a lemongrass soy dressing. It was very fresh & crunchy, tasted very healthful, but was a little underdressed. This salad definitely benefited from my addition of soy and garlic oil, some of the condiments on the table.

One thing that I found odd was that most people’s hot foods, (in fact the person next to me had 2 hot appetizers) served to them before my salad arrived. I know there’s something called timing that can be difficult to juggle, but still, I’m surprised that my raw food took longer.

My main dish was from the special’s board, the Kubo Noodle – chicken, tofu, broccoli, red pepper, onions, peanuts, herbs, garlic, lime, ginger & shanghai noodles. There were eggs in it originally, but as I do not eat eggs, so they omitted them from my meal.

My friend Shaista and I both had this dish and found it to be a little on the bland side. It only rated a 4/10 on the Shaistameter. Other people seemed to really enjoy whatever they ordered, so it must just have been this dish that was mediocre. My judgement was not as harsh as Shaista’s, but then I did add extra soy and garlic oil to make it taste better. The portion size was more than sufficient, I was full.

I wish I had ordered a dessert like Shaista did. She got the Kubo Flakey Filo Pastry, which has marscapone, whipped cream, passion fruit & icing sugar. Ok, so it came with raspberries instead of the passion fruit, but this dessert was so fantastic we didn’t care! She thought it was the best thing in the restaurant, rating 9.7/10 on the Shaistameter!

In the end, our waiter relaxed, got friendlier, and became more jovial. After dinner, this place turns into a bar, much like those on College West and remained filled until I left. I would probably go back, maybe in a smaller group, to compare and contrast the service level. I had visited Kubo in a previous location under the Merchandise building, and had very positive experiences there. I definitely want to have a sake martini and dessert next time.

Pulp Kitchen [brunch]

898 Queen Street E
416 . 461 . 4612

 

Located right in the heart of South Riverdale, this perfect juice bar and eatery serves vegan meals, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, energy bars, as well as other hot and cold health food. They also sell health and wellness books, nutrition books, cookbooks, high protein and energy bars, vegan pastries, cookies, squares, and cakes.

It looks like an affordable “Fressen” with a rainforest motif on the walls. The place sits about 15 tables and is very bright and cosy. That lazy Sunday morning, I went to brunch (a blind date) and ordered the tofu omelete, alittle too dry and overcooked, with sauteed portobello mushrooms, sauteed red and green peppers, spinach, soy cheese for $8.45. I also ordered a blueberry soy smoothie with frozen bananas, vanilla soy milk, and blueberries for $4.95. As usual, I was pleased by the freshness, presentation, and quality of the food and service. My brunch date ordered the exact same dish as I.

The brunch menu is extensive. It is important to mention that all references to eggs, cheese, meat, chicken, bacon, fish, are all fictional. Some brunch items to highlight are the grilled cheese sandwich with whole grain toast, whole grain peanut butter sandwich with house made jam and peanut butter, hot oatmeal with raisins, carmelized bananas, and pure maple syrup, stewed beans and bangers (like sausages and beans) with corn chutney, a side of green salad, and whole grain toast, a special pulp kitchen sandwich with seared tofu, oven roasted tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro. Many of their items are home-made, like their homefries, peanut butter, and jam. They accept Interac and VISA.

Joy Bistro

884 Queen E
(416) 465-8855

 

Walking into this little bistro right in the middle of South Riverdale at Queen East and Empire, we could not see inside since all of the windows were foggy. Upon entering, we noticed that it was small and the decor looked very much like a Pottery Barn furniture store. Very cosy and comfortable, we were seated in a small table right by the entrance. We noticed that tables were small and fairly close together.

The brunch menu is extensive but unfortunately does not have many vegetarian options except the famous Dutch blueberry pancake, which looked fabulous. I ordered an egg white omelete for $8.99 and it came with two free toppings, from a list of about twenty (I chose mushrooms and spinach) It came with toast and home fries and I replaced with salad in a yummy balsamic viniagrette “pudding-type” dressing

I am VERY happy to report that there was a bottle of ketchup on the table so there was no need to ask for tiny portions of ketchup. I was disappointed, though, as I expected it to be cool, unique, and hip, but instead it was very “cookie cutter”—looked like we stopped by Calvin Klein’s living room.

Staff are friendly staff, accomodating, no lineup. There is a separate dinner and brunch menu. There is an outdoor terrace (patio) that seats 32 in the summer. The place also serves affordable French-influenced continental cusine, cocktails, beer and wine, and gourmet coffee. The terrace overlooks the tennis courts at Jimmie Simpson Park. They accept VISA and Interac.

Pulp Kitchen, post renovation [Mark]

898 Queen Street E
416 . 461 . 4612
http://www.pulpkitchen.ca

I originally visited this place when it was a juice bar in summer 2002 and really liked the selection of fruit smoothies and vegetable juices. I went in late December with a friend and to my surprise they now serve a full meals and most dishes are vegan and healthy. My friend and I ordered the vegan Phad Thai, which consisted of glass rice noodles, chunks of tofu, homemade peanut sauce, and a lot of vegetables, all sauteed in a nice stir-fry.

We also had a thick delicious smoothie with vanilla soy milk, wheatgrass, spirulina, raspberries, strawberries ,and bananas. It was terrific. We also shared a warm salad of sauteed mushrooms, green beans, long cucumber slivers, and sauteed tofu in a rice vinegar type dressing. The salad was heavenly, not too greasy but the viniagrette was perfect. In addition we each ordered five vegan dumplings with homemade peanut sauce. What a healthy feast!

Decor is funky and tables are not too cramped together. Large front window makes the place bright during the day. The place has about 10-15 tables, sells protein and energy bars, fairly traded products, and they sell healthy desserts, bars, squares, cakes, and still runs as a juice, smoothie, and vegetable juice bar. Located right in the heart of South Riverdale, I will definitely go back. The menu is similar to Juice for Life, without the artsy-fartsy pretentiousness. The bill came out to $45.00 which was kind of pricy but the quality and service was excellent. Staff are very friendly and knowledgable with respect to food content and health benefits of the dishes.